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Physical Geography at the Transition to Higher Education: the effect of prior learning

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This paper examines the prior learning in physical geography of two cohorts of students on entry to a geography degree in the UK. Expectations of prior learning guide degree course planning at level 1, yet many lecturers in higher education are unlikely to have an appreciation of the recent heterogeneity of the geography curriculum for school years 12 and 13 (the old 'sixth form'). A questionnaire survey of 226 students identified differences in comprehension of terminology and in topic coverage between students who had experienced the '16-19' course and students who had followed other syllabuses. However, a familiarity with the subject of physical geography through teaching based on issues was not confined to the '16-19' group, and students who had experienced a purely systematic introduction to physical geography at A level were in a minority. First-year undergraduates have prior learning which is different in nature from that experienced by most of their lecturers. Their knowledge base is reduced and their expectations will be of issues-based learning. The dilemma for first-year degree course planners is how to bring systematic (and transferable) knowledge of physical systems for all students up to a level from which degree level can then be attained without losing the motivation previously provided by the immediacy of issues-based learning.
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Keywords: PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY A LEVEL SYLLABUS COURSE PLANNING PRIOR LEARNING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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